Emily and Ricky came up a couple weeks ago for her birthday, and she requested eggplant caponata. Then my neighbor Megan left a jar of caponata at my door a few days later. Then I had one more eggplant left and made it again last night for my parents. I don't think too much eggplant ever did anyone in.
As I've mentioned ad nauseum, we've had lots of dinner guests lately. It wouldn't work if I laboriously menu-planned, set a nice table, or worried about things like appetizers. BUT, having a little something to nibble is a favorite hostess trick, giving me time to pile dirty dishes in the sink, take off my apron (if I remember), and act like things are more effortless than they really are.
This caponata is absolutely delicious, a big saute pan is all you need, and one batch should get you through two nights of company. I've made it with fresh or canned tomatoes, with or without red chile flakes, and even without the flourish of fresh basil at the end. That's for the summer, which I'm not sure whether we're having or not. I keep bugging Joe's Garden about the basil. They just smile and say, "That's the sun's job." And the sun is nowhere to be found. But this little number might cheer you up.
Emily's Favorite Caponata
Adapted from Epicurious. Makes about 2 cups. Leftovers are delicious over eggs, spread on panini, or a million other ways.
5 Tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1.5 lb. eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, some of the juices drained, or equivalent amt. fresh tomatoes
3 Tb. red wine vinegar
2 Tb. drained capers
1/4 c. chiffonaded fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
red chile flakes
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with juice, then red wine vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Taste and see if it needs any salt (capers add a lot of salt). Grind a bit of fresh pepper and add a dash of chile flakes if you want. Transfer caponata to serving bowl. Serve with crackers, pita, or grilled bread.